2014 was the year in which the world was finally shaken out of complacency. Ukraine triggered Russia’s inevitable confrontation with the United States and Europe. Economic malaise in Europe became impossible to ignore, with anti-establishment groups growing louder with each passing election. An intensifying anti-corruption drive in China exposed how far and deep the Chinese leadership is willing to go in trying to manage political resistance amid a slowing economy.
Stratfor has long emphasized that two of the three pillars of the international system — Europe and China — were in structural decline while the United States, buoyed by an energy boom, would maintain a position of relative hegemony. As Robert Louis Stevenson would remind us, sooner or later, we will sit down to a banquet of consequences. Indeed, as we begin 2015, the price of Brent crude oil has been slashed by more than half of what it was a year ago and now hovers around $50 a barrel.